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c71
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Sun Oct-24-21 10:17 PM

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"Soul Man (Miner, 1986)"


  

          

https://currently.att.yahoo.com/entertainment/soul-man-controversy-blackface-spike-lee-most-offensive-movie-ever-202200084.html

Yahoo Movies

'Soul Man' at 35: How a young Spike Lee helped take down 'the most offensive movie ever'

Kevin Polowy

Kevin Polowy·Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment

Sun, October 24, 2021, 4:22 PM

Whether it’s the effects of a continually progressing society or the more diabolical wrath of so-called “cancel culture,” there have been countless movies from decades past — fair or not — being re-scrutinized through a contemporary lens in recent years.

And then there’s the case of 1986’s Soul Man.

Released in theaters 35 years ago today, the comedy about a rich white law student (C. Thomas Howell) who poses as a Black man in order to qualify for a scholarship to Harvard was canceled almost immediately after its release.

Almost, that is. The film, reportedly made for a budget of $4.5 million and distributed by New World Pictures, hauled in $35 million at the U.S. box office, making it a commercial success that out-grossed other popular films that year like Wildcats, Three Amigos!, Iron Eagle, Spikes Like Us, F/X, Flight of the Navigator and Children of a Lesser God.

Still, the blowback was quick. Here was a film that’s main character Mark Watson (Howell) wore blackface throughout. Taking tanning pills to darken his face, wearing an Afro wig and putting on a one-man minstrel show, Watson was the ‘80s cinematic equivalent of disgraced former college instructor and Spokane NAACP chapter president Rachel Dolezal.

Upon its release, the NAACP railed against it. Students at UCLA protested outside of a theater screening it. “We find the Al Jolson-like portrayal of the main character offensive and trivializing,” wrote the university’s Black American Law Students Association, referencing the infamous blackface performer and star of The Jazz Singer. And a young filmmaker named Spike Lee, who was just breaking out with his feature directorial debut She’s Gotta Have It, put it on blast during an uncomfortable appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.

“The whole premise is that he’s passing as Black, and it’s so phony, that means all the Black people in the movie are idiots… that they could think that this guy is Black,” said Lee, who had watched clips from the movie but refused to see it in full.

“They’re trying to pass it off as an attack on racism. I really don’t see it that way. That’s not funny to me.”


Indeed, Soul Man was posited by its creators as exactly that: a well-intentioned comedy that teaches a white man he can’t understand racism until he’s the one being discriminated against. “A comedy with heart and soul,” read the tagline for the film, written by Carol Black (creator of future TV hits The Wonder Years and Ellen) and directed by Steve Miner. (The poster’s tagline was not nearly as bad as the trailer’s: “He didn’t give up… he got down.”)

“A white man donning blackface is taboo. Conversation over, you can’t win,” said Howell. “But our intentions were pure: We wanted to make a funny movie that had a message about racism.”

“It used comedy as a device to expose sexual stereotyping. I think Soul Man uses it to explode racial stereotyping,” said producer Steve Tisch, who compared the film’s plot the 1982 favorite Tootsie in which Dustin Hoffman dresses up as a woman to advance his career — and whom Lee mentioned called him after he began publicly putting the movie on blast in 1986.

But let’s remember the sociopolitical climate of the mid-1980s. The Reaganomics era was in full bloom, promising a trickle-down effect to low-income families that never came and ultimately widened the wealth gap between white and Black Americans. Affirmative action, which Mark Watson exploits in the film despite coming from a family of extreme wealth and (white) privilege, was as hot-button an issue as they come — a domestic program Reagan openly opposed.

“It’s really an attack on affirmative action,” Lee told Cavett during his talk show appearance.

How rich then that Soul Man happened to feature the president’s son Ron Reagan in a minor role in the supporting cast that also included Rae Dawn Chong, Leslie Nielsen, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and perhaps most perplexing, James Earl Jones. "The Reagans enjoyed the film and especially enjoyed seeing their son Ron," a White House spokesman said after President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan screened the film at Camp David.


No matter its intentions, Soul Man remains an indefensible disaster to many. Consider just a few cringeworthy moments, like the dinner sequence where — through the guise of white characters' points of view — Howell also imitates a sex-craved savage who tears the blouse off a woman to the sounds of African tribal music, a sex-craved Prince and a sex-craved, jive-talking pimp sucking down watermelon.

It’s no wonder the film was “canceled” almost immediately — and decades before blackface episodes would come back to bite the likes of celebrities Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Paula Deen and Megyn Kelly and politicians Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Howell and Chong, who married in 1989 after meeting on the film but divorced in 1990, remained supporters of the film well into the new millennium.

“This isn’t a movie that should be considered irresponsible on any level. This is a movie that is quite the opposite for me,” Howell told the AV Club in 2013. “I think it’s a really innocent movie with a very powerful message, and it’s an important part of my life. I’m proud of the performance, and I’m proud of the people that were in it.”

The internet would disagree. YouTube essays on the film come with headers like “Is This the Worst Comedy of the 80s?,” “Soul Man Was Insensitive as Hell!” and “THE MOST OFFENSIVE MOVIE EVER!”

Chong, especially, has remained defiant about the film — and there’s a single person she blames for its swift and lasting downfall.

“It was only controversial because Spike Lee made a thing of it,” the actress said in a 2016 interview with The Wrap. “He’d never seen the movie and he just jumped all over it… He was just starting and pulling everything down in his wake. If you watch the movie, it’s really making white people look stupid.”

Fueled by Lee or not, it’s almost impressive how swiftly Soul Man met its downfall. This was decades before John Hughes movies were being re-evaluated for not aging well and Green Book, a film about a gay Black pianist touring the 1960s Deep South, was instantly being called problematic, or at least dated, upon its release, albeit on its way to winning Best Picture at the Oscars.

Still, don’t give 1986 too much credit. Four weeks after Soul Man’s premiere came a re-release of Song of the South, long considered Disney’s most racist movie and one of the most infamously offensive films of all time. Its re-release grossed over $17 million at the U.S. box office.

  

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Topic Outline
Subject Author Message Date ID
I don't remember the movie well enough
Oct 26th 2021
1
The film was just bad - it was not "cancelled"
Oct 26th 2021
2
Lol @ Bernie's
Oct 26th 2021
3
Just One of the Guys
Oct 27th 2021
8
lol damn
Oct 28th 2021
14
      I didn't find out until we were 3 years into our relationship
Oct 29th 2021
21
I actually liked Just One Of The Guys. Lol
Oct 28th 2021
11
This was on HBO all the time when I was younger
Oct 26th 2021
4
As a kid I remember watching with my dad and we thought it was
Oct 26th 2021
5
Why does he look like Bruno Mars in that last bit there
Oct 26th 2021
6
      And sounds like Chris Rock
Oct 27th 2021
9
Growing up Black in NOVA in the 80s, this actually hit the mark
Oct 27th 2021
7
I just read the article. This is revisionist history.
Oct 27th 2021
10
Ive never seen the movie but reading the Wiki synopsis
Oct 28th 2021
12
that's basically what it is
Oct 28th 2021
13
      run this back???
Oct 28th 2021
15
           Yeah having sex with someone under the pre-text that they think you
Oct 28th 2021
16
                there's a classic '80s music doc called Let's Get Lost
Oct 28th 2021
17
                Don’t forget the “General Patton” skit on Big Boi’s album
Nov 01st 2021
22
                i understand the act, i just forgot that part of the plot
Oct 28th 2021
18
                     The scene he wears a dark vader mask I think?
Oct 29th 2021
19
                          Thats the scene
Oct 29th 2021
20
                               Checked it for myself. Its power is in how justifiable it was
Nov 02nd 2021
25
                                    in the movie's internal universe, the power dynamic is flopped
Nov 03rd 2021
26
                                         oh for sure
Nov 04th 2021
27
It was shit, and everyone around me knew it was shit.
Nov 01st 2021
23
      This is a fair point...Spike was catching arrows for being ahead of the ...
Nov 02nd 2021
24

spades
Member since Mar 22nd 2006
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Tue Oct-26-21 09:32 AM

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1. "I don't remember the movie well enough"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

but just given what I've read, I don't see how anyone could defend this.

********************************
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"The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion" - Paulo Coehlo

  

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handle
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Tue Oct-26-21 11:14 AM

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2. "The film was just bad - it was not "cancelled""
In response to Reply # 0


          

I remember when it came out - we all thought it was a stupid idea. it came and went like almost every other stupid comedy in that time.

Also see:
Just One of the Guys - A girl pretends to be a boy to be "taken seriously."

Weekend at Bernie's - A corpse pretends to be a fun loving goof.


------------


Gone: My Discogs collection for The Roots:
http://www.discogs.com/user/tomhayes-roots/collection

  

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josephmurf2384
Member since Nov 21st 2005
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Tue Oct-26-21 11:58 AM

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3. "Lol @ Bernie's"
In response to Reply # 2


  

          

  

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JiggysMyDayJob
Member since Jul 03rd 2002
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Wed Oct-27-21 09:49 AM

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8. "Just One of the Guys "
In response to Reply # 2


  

          

That movie was important in my formative years and not that it doesn't have its issues looking back, it's just not as egregious as Soul Man was.


I also married the Assistant Editor's daughter so....

sometimes u gotta leave ur inner nigger in the bank vault. - desus

Situation Podemy : www.situationpodemy.wordpress.com
itunes:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/situation-podemy/id620232249
facebook: facebook.com/situationpodemy
@SituationPodemy

  

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Mynoriti
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Thu Oct-28-21 01:33 PM

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14. "lol damn"
In response to Reply # 8


  

          

>I also married the Assistant Editor's daughter so....

i used to work with a guy who was an extra in it, so pretty much almost the same thing

  

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JiggysMyDayJob
Member since Jul 03rd 2002
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Fri Oct-29-21 03:22 PM

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21. "I didn't find out until we were 3 years into our relationship"
In response to Reply # 14


  

          

Went by her dad's house messing about in his garage looking for something she wanted to take to our place and saw the poster. Then she was like, "Oh yeah, that was Dad's first real editing gig. He we spent the entire summer in Arizona while they worked on the film." I guess back then editing was done on location at the time.

He did a few of those 80's movies before moving over to TV. I had no idea I was marrying into a industry family.

sometimes u gotta leave ur inner nigger in the bank vault. - desus

Situation Podemy : www.situationpodemy.wordpress.com
itunes:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/situation-podemy/id620232249
facebook: facebook.com/situationpodemy
@SituationPodemy

  

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Sofian_Hadi
Member since Jan 03rd 2003
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Thu Oct-28-21 08:35 AM

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11. "I actually liked Just One Of The Guys. Lol"
In response to Reply # 2


          

I dont think its in the "Soul Man' catagory at all. Just a good cheesy 80s or 90s, i cant remember. That and the lead actress was fine as hell. And i was a young male.

---------------------------------------

"The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." - James Baldwin

  

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Walleye
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Tue Oct-26-21 01:14 PM

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4. "This was on HBO all the time when I was younger"
In response to Reply # 0


          

I remember seeing it when I was like, eleven, and even then it was clearly a big, careless, racist mess.

Thanks for the article, though! This actually answered something I'd always wondered but didn't bother to research myself: what did the dummies who were making the movie think they were doing?

Turns out, hearing it kind of makes it worse.

______________________________

"Walleye, a lot of things are going to go wrong in your life that technically aren't your fault. Always remember that this doesn't make you any less of an idiot"

--Walleye's Dad

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Tue Oct-26-21 01:35 PM

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5. "As a kid I remember watching with my dad and we thought it was"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Hilarious at times. Especially the scene where everyone was imagining what he was like around the dinner table.

Just rewatched. Okay only the last one made me laugh this time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbX9U622I5Q



**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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Adwhizz
Member since Nov 12th 2003
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Tue Oct-26-21 02:50 PM

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6. "Why does he look like Bruno Mars in that last bit there"
In response to Reply # 5


  

          

with the Watermellon and the zoot suit

R.I.P. Loud But Wrong Guy
Dec 29th 2009 - Dec 17th 2017

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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9. "And sounds like Chris Rock"
In response to Reply # 6


  

          


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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Beamer6178
Member since Jan 09th 2006
6084 posts
Wed Oct-27-21 09:18 AM

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7. "Growing up Black in NOVA in the 80s, this actually hit the mark"
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Also, being identified as gifted and taking the honors course path, my educational experience from K-12 was white as fuck. Maybe my offense button had been snapped off at the wires, but I took it as satire and remember laughing a lot at the caricatured characters. Those people DO exist.

The mere premise, that a white man born into privilege would rather pose as a Black person to get something for "free" rather than incur debt, is like, spot the fuck on.

I think the most interesting aspect of this article is that Howell and Chong got married then soon after divorced. Like some racial harmony dust got sprinkled on them then dried off shortly thereafter.

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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10. "I just read the article. This is revisionist history. "
In response to Reply # 0


  

          

Someone else mentioned it, the movie wasn't canceled by any stretch of the imagination. Like I don't even see the Article making a case that it was canceled when at the same time admitting it was a commercial success and it made more money than Three Amigos!

I remember Spike Lee and the NAACP being critical of the film but they were outliers and nowhere near the majority opinion of the film at the time.

I think the fact that James Earl Jones was in the movie just speaks to the fact that people just didn't feel as strongly about this sort of stuff then as they do now. I think that's progress, but let's not try to rewrite history to make it seem like people always thought it was terrible to be in blackface.




**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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Sofian_Hadi
Member since Jan 03rd 2003
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Thu Oct-28-21 08:41 AM

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12. "Ive never seen the movie but reading the Wiki synopsis "
In response to Reply # 10


          

it doesnt seem like the movie is actually about a white guy making fun of blackness. The synopsis basically says he thinks it would be easier to be black, so he pretends, but quickly learns the opposite and regrets his decision. Even learning he stole the college spot of a black woman he falls in love with. Im guessing the poster taglines and advertising didnt do the movie any favors.

I'll be honest, i highly doubt ill take the time to actually watch it and see if the synopsis is accurate. lmao

---------------------------------------

"The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in." - James Baldwin

  

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Mynoriti
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Thu Oct-28-21 01:31 PM

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13. "that's basically what it is"
In response to Reply # 12


  

          

the movie's message is about empathy.. that a white guy who can't catch a break due to affirmative action gets a taste of what its like to walk in a black man's shoes and starts to realize his privilege. i think the problem is that empathy doesn't really extend beyond the movie's universe... like a white guy thinking its all good to make a goofy movie about a white guy in blackface, and playing with a bunch of stereotypes. it's also just not very good.

reminds me of Revenge of the Nerds in that sense. it isn't as problematic as SoulMan on its surface but it's a movie with a message diversity and inclusion filled with cringey stereotypes, where our heroes are peeping toms, and our main hero essentially rapes someone (but was ok because she liked it)

  

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Beamer6178
Member since Jan 09th 2006
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Thu Oct-28-21 01:42 PM

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15. "run this back???"
In response to Reply # 13


  

          


>reminds me of Revenge of the Nerds in that sense. it isn't as
>problematic as SoulMan on its surface but it's a movie with a
>message diversity and inclusion filled with cringey
>stereotypes, where our heroes are peeping toms, and our main
>hero essentially rapes someone (but was ok because she liked
>it)
>
Louis basically raped someone???? damn, i missed that.

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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16. "Yeah having sex with someone under the pre-text that they think you"
In response to Reply # 15


  

          

are someone else is certainly considered rape, rightfully so I would say, in most jurisdictions. I think its called rape by deception.


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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howisya
Member since Nov 09th 2002
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Thu Oct-28-21 04:54 PM

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17. "there's a classic '80s music doc called Let's Get Lost"
In response to Reply # 16


  

          

about chet baker. i watched it earlier this year. his friend tells what's supposed to be a wacky story where he's about to sleep with his girlfriend, but before he gets to do so, from out of nowhere, chet slides right in behind her without her ever knowing his identity.

  

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shockvalue
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22. "Don’t forget the “General Patton” skit on Big Boi’s album"
In response to Reply # 17


          

About the “David Blaine”.

  

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Beamer6178
Member since Jan 09th 2006
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Thu Oct-28-21 07:35 PM

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18. "i understand the act, i just forgot that part of the plot"
In response to Reply # 16


  

          

>are someone else is certainly considered rape, rightfully so
>I would say, in most jurisdictions. I think its called rape by
>deception.
>
>
>**********
>"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then
>they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson
>
>"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Fri Oct-29-21 11:07 AM

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19. "The scene he wears a dark vader mask I think?"
In response to Reply # 18


  

          


**********
"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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JiggysMyDayJob
Member since Jul 03rd 2002
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Fri Oct-29-21 03:19 PM

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20. "Thats the scene"
In response to Reply # 19


  

          

He raped her and at the end of it all she excuses it cause she falls in love with him. The wife and I were talking about it last weekend cause it was on AMC at the time.

sometimes u gotta leave ur inner nigger in the bank vault. - desus

Situation Podemy : www.situationpodemy.wordpress.com
itunes:https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/situation-podemy/id620232249
facebook: facebook.com/situationpodemy
@SituationPodemy

  

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Beamer6178
Member since Jan 09th 2006
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Tue Nov-02-21 03:17 PM

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25. "Checked it for myself. Its power is in how justifiable it was "
In response to Reply # 20


  

          

>He raped her and at the end of it all she excuses it cause
>she falls in love with him. The wife and I were talking about
>it last weekend cause it was on AMC at the time.

The way the film depicted it, NOT MY PERSONAL OPINIONS:
------------------------------------
She refused to touch him at the fundraising lines so he was justified in showing her what's what. Because she was so horny it didn't matter ultimately who she was having sex with as long as they did it well. That's why she wasn't horrified, she was only surprised and impressed that a nerd could sex so well.

--------------------------------

While skimming through to find the scene, I stumbled across the video feeds the nerds had installed in the women's changing rooms.



It is powerful imagery when conduct that would now be criminalized is made to be heroic mainly because the protagonists start on the margins of societal acceptance.


This movie lays out quite effectively the challenge we as a society have in getting it right when the notion of consent is so effectively dismissed.

  

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Mynoriti
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Wed Nov-03-21 05:39 PM

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26. "in the movie's internal universe, the power dynamic is flopped"
In response to Reply # 25


  

          

Probably because it was presented like she was top of the food chain status and he impressed her.

same with the peeping tom stuff. its seen as a small victory for this group of losers while these girls pretty much run the universe.

that's not to excuse any of it. Louis raped her, and the stuff they did was criminal, but this was really standard 80s teenage sex romp movie stuff. hardly anyone batted an eye over things like this

  

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Beamer6178
Member since Jan 09th 2006
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Thu Nov-04-21 08:44 AM

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27. "oh for sure"
In response to Reply # 26


  

          

>Probably because it was presented like she was top of the
>food chain status and he impressed her.
>
>same with the peeping tom stuff. its seen as a small victory
>for this group of losers while these girls pretty much run the
>universe.
>
>that's not to excuse any of it. Louis raped her, and the stuff
>they did was criminal, but this was really standard 80s
>teenage sex romp movie stuff. hardly anyone batted an eye over
>things like this

fuck batting an eye, REVELED in it, even.

women have been getting raped forever, but i would not be surprised if campus culture was negatively impacted by such imagery. I believe co-eds were intermingling more than before in the late 70s early 80s and the perception that sorority/popular girls were profligate in sexing all completely overlooked that it was still THEIR choice who to be profligate with.

  

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Castro
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Mon Nov-01-21 03:41 PM

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23. "It was shit, and everyone around me knew it was shit."
In response to Reply # 10


  

          

Spike was an outlier because he was an independent BLACK voice who said what everyone felt, a rarity in those days. Spike has been loud and wrong plenty of times but this was NOT one of those times.

It looks like revisionist history because back when it came out, there were no major media outlets with Black voices that would be openly critical of things in that manner.

------------------
One Hundred.

  

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Buddy_Gilapagos
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Tue Nov-02-21 10:24 AM

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24. "This is a fair point...Spike was catching arrows for being ahead of the ..."
In response to Reply # 23


  

          

caught them for calling out Riding Miss Daisy too.



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"Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the face. Then they don't have a plan anymore." (c) Mike Tyson

"what's a leader if he isn't reluctant"

  

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